book review

High Stakes in an Outstanding Debut | Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Friday, October 18, 2019

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon

Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: 10/29/19
Pages: 416
Source: publisher in exchange for an honest review
The start of a fierce fantasy duology about three maidens who are chosen for their land's greatest honor...and one girl determined to save her sister from the grave. In the walled city-state of Alu, Kammani wants nothing more than to become the accomplished healer her father used to be before her family was cast out of their privileged life in shame. When Alu's ruler falls deathly ill, Kammani’s beautiful little sister, Nanaea, is chosen as one of three sacred maidens to join him in the afterlife. It’s an honor. A tradition. And Nanaea believes it is her chance to live an even grander life than the one that was stolen from her. But Kammani sees the selection for what it really is—a death sentence. Desperate to save her sister, Kammani schemes her way into the palace to heal the ruler. There she discovers more danger lurking in the sand-stone corridors than she could have ever imagined and that her own life—and heart—are at stake. But Kammani will stop at nothing to dig up the palace’s buried secrets even if it means sacrificing everything…including herself.
The ruler of Alu is dying. That means only one thing. It’s time to choose the Sacred Maidens who will accompany the lugal, or ruler, of the city into the Afterlife. When Nanaea is chosen as a Maiden, she and all the townspeople see it as a great honor and blessing. Except Kammani, Nanaea’s sister, who sees the tradition for what it is: murder. Kammani strives to save her sister at all costs. She is called to heal the lugal but all may not be as it seems in the palace. When she glimpses too much of the truth, Kammani realizes that the path ahead is dangerous, knowing that it may only end in death. Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon is a magnificent debut with a unique story that you’ve never seen before.

  • Gravemaidens was able to give readers a lot of information without dumping too much information at once. Instead, Kelly Coon slides a little bit of world building into every scene and without even realizing it, I was already deeply immersed into the story. 
  • From the first chapter, the stakes were placed extremely high. Nanaea is chosen to be a Sacred Maiden. In Kammani’s eyes, that's a death sentence. A lot of people do not see it that way; they focus on what an honor it is. These differing perspectives easily increase the stakes because the majority of characters do not see it as life threatening. It's absolutely genius. On the one side, there’s Kammani (and me). And on the other side was everyone else in the book, celebrating because the standing-ruler is going to murder three women to join the lugal in his tomb. Gravemaidens is a heart pounding journey that has to be finished in one sitting. 
  • Coon’s writing is absolutely superb. The immersive world, coupled with Kammani’s curious perspective makes for a page turner like no other. 
  • In many cultures, people believed that they had to be buried with what they would take with them when they crossed over. In Egyptian culture, they were sometimes buried with their pets (who—I recall—were alive). Those history lessons in school always left me curious to learn more. And finally, an amazing author wrote a book focusing on that aspect of the Afterlife. It was everything I wanted and more!

  • Going into the book, I expected a unique view on the Afterlife as well as a strong sisterly bond. For sure, readers receive Kammani’s modern perspective on the Afterlife. Kammani is seen as the sensible, reliable sister. She’s also an apprentice to her father, a healer. We follow her story as she tries to not only save the lugal from death but also her sister. You'd think this act of saving her sister would strengthen her bond with Nanaea but instead because of the warring perspectives, Nanaea essentially despises her for it. Nanaea is unlikable and completely naive. I’m not saying Kammani wasn’t in the wrong for some things but Nanaea never gives her sister a chance to explain her side. Gravemaidens reflects a side of siblings that readers don’t often see in YA. Instead of a strong sisterly bond, the book tackles raw and complex familial relationships
  • There was a little bit of romance which I adored in between stressful moments. The romance is, however, stunted by the lack of communication which is infuriating. I hope more comes of it in the sequel. 
  • There is certainly never a dull moment. The last hundred pages go by in almost warp speed. Gravemaidens is fast paced but the ending of the book jumped from 50mph to 100mph in no time at all. The ending was outstanding, with the reveals and Kammani’s quick thinking. It was so tense to a stomach-aching degree that I will be counting down the days until the sequel releases in 2020. 

This book deserves several more rereads to fully appreciate. Its heart pounding, jaw dropping journey takes readers completely by surprise. Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon is a masterful debut that twists your insides. It's a page turner like no other with a fantastic world and complex characters. Gravemaidens needs to be on your radar!!

Tackling my TBR

Tackling My TBR: October 2019

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Tackling My TBR is a monthly post, where I share my reading plans for the upcoming month. The concept of a TBR Jar is not a new one. I’ve seen it used in various ways throughout the bookish community. My jar will be a little different. The goal is to read the older books on my to-read pile. Thus, instead of putting individual book titles on a small sheet of paper to place in the jar, I wrote a month and a year on each. Each month, I intend to pull three sheets of paper from my jar which will dictate which three books I will read. The dates on the paper correspond with the date I added those books to my Goodreads account. Some months will have over 20 books to choose from, when others may have only one. From Goodreads, I’ll choose the three books from the three different monthly hauls. And if I cannot complete the book within the month, it will be unhauled (with the exception of one pass each month).

In September, I tackled books from my April 2015, December 2017, and March 2018 book hauls. I am so happy that I finally read Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. It’s been on my shelf for so long and classics are not something I usually read. It was okay, I actually prefer Pride and Prejudice but I’m one step closer to finish her complete works. I didn’t get around to The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin but I plan on reading the final book in the series by the end of the year. Looking back, I was supposed to read The Book Jumper by Mechtild Glaser but I ended up reading The Forgotten Book, also by her, instead. That was a solid Pride and Prejudice retelling with a twist.

From the jar, I picked from the November 2016, January 2013, and December 2011 book hauls. From there I chose the following books:

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi: So, this may come as a shock but I never continued in the Shatter Me series after the first book. I adored the first book back when it first came out so I purchased the second and even the third but never got around to it. Hopefully, this month is the time to finally read what happens next.

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin: I’m debating whether or not to just unhaul all of my Giffin books because I didn’t love the last book I read from her, Love the One You’re With. I’ll try to give this one a go but after reading the synopsis, I’m not sure why I ever picked it up in the first place. It’s about a couple who decide they don’t want to have kids early on and then as time goes on, one of them changes their mind.

The Boyfriend App by Katie Sise: At first, this one reminded me of the movie, Pixel Perfect, but now I’m not so sure. Audrey builds an app to win a contest, using the scandals of her high school to inspire some of her app’s content. The synopsis is rather vague but it sounds like it might be good.


I enjoy reading spooky books in October so having a readathon to go with it is just icing on the cake. Spookathon is hosted by BooksandLala. Here’s the announcement for the readathon. It takes place between October 14th to the 20th. I couldn’t be more excited about this! Here’s the books and challenges I hope to complete:

read a book with a spooky word in the title:
The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige: I read Dorothy Must Die last month and absolutely loved it. I’ve been looking for a way to slip the sequel in somewhere. And wicked is definitely a spooky word.

something you wouldn't normally read:
Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood: I used to read quite a bit of witch books but in recent years, I’m just not that into them anymore. However, I still have a few left on my shelf, Born Wicked being one of them.

read a thriller:
Deadly Little Lessons by Laurie Faria Stolarz: I know, I know. This isn’t a thriller, it’s more like a mystery with some creepy vibes. I rarely read actual thrillers, it’s just not a genre I gravitate towards. Plus, whenever I decide to read bestselling thrillers like The Girl on the Train and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, they turn out to be books that just aren’t for me.

read a book with red on the cover:
Blackbird by Anna Carey: I’m still in the middle of her first series, Eve. This one I know very little about and have heard readers talk about even less than her other books. It’s got red on the cover, that’s all I know.

read a book with a spooky setting:
Maximum Ride Forever by James Patterson: Isn’t the apocalypse a spooky setting? I also needed this book to be on a set tbr because I would not be reading it otherwise. I’m so done with this series—it had a solid ending in the last book but insists on another whole book to conclude the series.

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski: House of Leaves can actually overlap quite a few challenges. I started this book five years ago, got about 50 pages in and then had to put it down due to homework and other responsibilities. This book isn’t your average book—it’s an experience that readers get fully immersed in. It’s astounding. I want to take my time with it, which is why I’m starting it earlier than the readathon. With over 700 pages, it’s not the most ideal book for a readathon either but if I get it finished this month, I’ll be so happy!

What are you reading this month?

kickin' it

Kickin' It: September 2019 Wrap Up

Friday, October 04, 2019

September was such a fantastic month! Not only was it my birthday month, but it was also Contemporary-a-thon at the end of the month. I was low-key participating at first but quickly realized that I must have picked some good books since I was finishing a lot of them so fast. I’m very much a homebody but I was busy almost every weekend. I went to an antique car show, the Renaissance Faire, and out to eat a few times too. In total, I was able to read 15 books this month. Here’s what I read:

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman (4 stars): This one was so adorable. Nina Hill is my spirit animal—we’re almost the same person. I was expecting a romance but the romance is on the back burner in this one. It’s a lovely story of an introverted woman in an unexpected family.

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne (5 stars): Love, love, love this one! I couldn’t stop thinking about it. As soon as I finished the book, I spent the next day just reading my favorite parts again in order to quench my raging book hangover. It was amazing! I don’t reread books very often but this one will likely get a reread at some point; it was just that good.

Meet Cute by Helena Hunting (3.5 stars): I’m disappointed in this one. The cute cover is deceiving since I went into this one expected a romance and really didn’t get much of one. The book focuses on a custody battle for a recently orphaned child between her brother and her aunt. The characters were unfortunately flat. Readers were supposed to believe the two love interests had all this chemistry from the past without ever showing it. Ugh, just not for me.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen (3.5 stars): I love the film adaptation so I thought it was finally time to read the book it was adapted from. And, to be honest, I’m a bit disappointed. The movie glazes over the fact that this is a “romance” between two first cousins—a fact difficult to miss in the book when they call each other “cousin” in their dialogue. Also, the ending felt entirely rushed like Austen was unsure how to end it so she wrote a few paragraphs to be done with it. Not my favorite Austen novel to be sure.

Redeemed by P.C. Cast and Kristin Cast (3 stars): Finally, I have come to the end of the House of Night series. It was a solid end for a series that went on farther than it needed to be.

Saving Zoe by Alyson Noel (2.5 stars): I am done with Alyson Noel’s contemporaries. I still have her paranormal series, The Soul Seekers, to try out. This book was the second book I’ve read this year where an older sister dies so in order to grieve the younger sister goes after the older sister’s boyfriend. I understand that it does happen but I just don’t want to read about it. So, nope, moving on.

The Forgotten Book by Mecthild Glaser (3.5 stars): I’ve been meaning to pick up a Glaser book for a while. Unbeknownst to me, The Forgotten Book is a retelling of Pride and Prejudice with a twist: after finding an abandoned diary, she finds that when she writes in it, her words come to life. I loved the Pride and Prejudice aspect. It may have been the translation (this was translated from German), but the pacing and some word choices seemed a bit odd. Overall, a good book—I’ll definitely be reading more of Glaser in the future.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson (3.5 stars): Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be reading Rogerson in the future. As much as I enjoyed the book, there just didn’t seem to have enough substance for me to want to continue. Everything felt a bit rushed and it’s such a short book that I suppose it’s understandable. At times, I felt very confused at some of the world building. And for the most part, I had to just go with the flow and take things in stride because it is too short of a book to be lost at any point.

Gravemaidens by Kelly Coon (5 stars): Another one I gave many heart eyes to. This is such a phenomenal fantasy! The twists and turns kept me on my toes. There’s an unexpected mystery at the heart of this and I was living for it. Kelly Coon’s writing was captivating and immersive. I can’t wait for the sequel.

Prince Charming by Rachel Hawkins (4 stars): A lovely romance set in Scotland between a royal and an average girl. This is my kind of book. I didn’t love Hawkins’ writing in Hex Hall but adored it here. The back and forth banter was the icing on the cake of what already was a great romance!

Field Notes on Love by Jennifer E. Smith (4 stars): I haven’t loved a book of Smith’s since I read her book, The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight. Yet, I’ve read almost all of her books and it was such a surprise to find something in this one that brought me back to Love at First Sight. Field Notes has a lot of elements I adore: a traveling abroad romance, strong familial relationships, and filmmaking.

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (4 stars): I’m completely blown away by this one. It was lovely and moving and can I just read it again? The romance is calculating. The sexual tension is tangible. This book is everything I’ve ever wanted in a romance. The ending was absolute perfection.

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey (4.5 stars): This was a bit steamy than all the other romances I read this month. I enjoyed it; it was a cute story. The main character really shines. I could do without the hundred times he called her “baby girl” though.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige (5 stars): I was so surprised how amazing this one was. Like, why did I wait so long to read it? It takes on a whole new angle of The Wizard of Oz, a look into what happens after the story we all know. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

The Diviners by Libba Bray (4 stars): Another book I’m chastising myself for not reading sooner. I adore Libba Bray’s writing but this series of hers always looked so daunting. The audiobook is a real gem. If you’ve been on the fence about reading this one, definitely pick up the audiobook, it’s fantastic!

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh (10/8/19): Despite some early disappointed reviews, I’m still interested to see what Ahdieh’s new book is all about. I’m ready for some vampires!

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (10/8/19): I’m on the fence about this one. I adore Leigh Bardugo and her writing it always magnificent. However, the vague premise of a college student who gets caught up in an on-campus cult, makes me think this isn’t a book for me. But who knows, maybe I’ll give it a try and absolutely love it.

Royal Holiday by Jasmine Guillory (10/1/19): According to Goodreads, this is the fourth in the Wedding Date series. I’m unsure if you have to read them in order. Since, I’ve only read The Wedding Date, I suppose I’ll have to catch up.

Despite going out with friends and family quite a bit, we didn’t see any movies in the theater this month. When I wasn’t reading, I was trying to sneak in an episode of Dark—I’m on season 2 and am loving it so far. I also caught the end of America’s Got Talent. And just in time for my birthday, Buzzfeed’s Unsolved series returned once again. 9-1-1 came back on the air and let me tell you, the stakes are high in the season. And Prodigal Son premiered a week or two ago and looks promising. It reminds me a lot of I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga. Overall, a good TV month!

Season 3 Bobby GIF by 9-1-1 on FOX

How was your September? Did you read any amazing books? Did you watch any fantastic shows/movies?

Top Ten Tuesday

10 Books On My TBR With Numbers in Their Titles

Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Wow, can you believe it's already October? Instead of posting my wrap up, which should be up some time this week, I'm looking through my to-read pile to see which books have numbers in the title.

There is something that draws me to titles with numbers in them (I don't know what it is). Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is: Top 10 Books with Numbers in Their Titles:

Seven Letters from Paris by Samantha Verant: This is a memoir of a woman who is down on her luck and finds love letters that were given to her when she was in her 20s. She tracks the man down, almost 20 years later, and finds that both distance and time hasn't severed their feelings for each other. Swoon.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan: Any book that has to do with books or a bookstore has got to be good, right? And a 24-hour bookstore? Sounds like heaven.

Love Scene, Take Two by Alex Evansley: This is a contemporary debut novel about a romance between an actor and an author. The actor auditions for a part in the author's film adaptation of her book; and the rest is history.

Odd One Out by Nic Stone: I've been debating reading or unhauling this one because I'm just not sure if it's for me. It's about a complicated love triangle that seems to get out of hand.

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum: It has heart shaped waffles on the cover, need I say more?

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons: I'm not that big into the dystopian genre anymore but it's been sitting on my shelf since I was into it so I might as well give it a go.

November 9 by Colleen Hoover: Ever since reading my first Hoover book this year, I've been working on collecting them all because I enjoyed her writing so much.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson: I tend to read the occasional memoir here and there and saw this book in the budget pile at the bookstore and decided to pick it up. The subtitle of the book is One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time which sounds like a promising and engaging read.

Level 2 by Lenore Appelhans: This book is actually titled The Memory of After now because readers thought the number 2 made it a sequel-- though I own the original titled book so I'm including it here. This book is a sort of dystopian/science fiction about a girl who dies unexpectedly and finds herself in level 2, an afterlife or in-between place. When one of her neighbors in level 2 dies and she is the only one who even remembers her, she starts to wonder if something isn't as it seems here.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo: So, I've read her Six of Crows duology and am currently in the middle of the Grisha trilogy but Ninth House will be the first foray into adult fiction for Bardugo and I'm excited to what the book holds.

What titles with numbers are on your to-read list?

Top Ten Tuesday

15 Books I Plan On Reading This Fall (2019)

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

This may be called Top Ten Tuesday, but I've got 15 books on this list because I'm an over-achiever. What can I say? I have big plans for this season. And most of it involves a comfy armchair to read all these books. I rarely have fixed TBRs. Besides my flexible TBR jar that I do every month--and only pick three books out of, I usually leave it kind of open.

However, I did just realize that it's autumn. That means that there are mere months until the year ends and I haven't finished half the book series I wanted to yet. So this is my TBR as I play catch-up to my series. There are some books that aren't a series: those I've just had on my shelf for so long that I really need to get to. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is: Books on my Fall TBR:

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood | The Steel Prince by V.E. Schwab | A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs | Enchantee by Gita Trelease

The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin | Finale by Becca Fitzpatrick | Refraction by Naomi Hughes | Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan | Unbreakable by Elizabeth Norris | The Forgetting by Sharon Cameron | Romeo Redeemed by Stacey Jay

Unclaimed Baggage by Jen Doll | Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson | Deadly Little Lessons by Laurie Faria Stolarz

What are you reading this fall?